What is a digital twin?
More than a virtual digital counterpart, a digital twin is connected to its physical world through data feeds. Digital twins rise from the foundations of BIM, and 3D models developed for construction can form the backbone of an interactive Digital Twin, albeit their use is not compulsory.
A digital twin can be as simple as a spreadsheet with live data feeds via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), a simple 2D or 3D model of a local component, through to a fully integrated and highly accurate visualisation of an entire collection of assets, with each element dynamically linked to engineering, construction, and operational data as and when needed.
But the transformative potential of digital twins lies in the ability to connect them together to provide deeper insights across a wider context. A virtual replica of a project could provide a ‘single version of the truth’, where all design-build-operate data can be accessed and viewed online on-demand.
Combining 4D BIM and digital twin
Many BIM projects are already exploiting 4D BIM, which adds the element of scheduling and planning over time to 3D models, making it possible to create virtual construction sequences of a project. This helps improve planning and communication across a wide array of stakeholders.
But the ability to run a digital twin of an asset, brought to life by data feeds, offers additional benefits, both short and long-term, across the entire asset lifecycle.
Digital twins can test construction sequencing and logistics scenarios, verify the as-built situation or run ‘what if’ simulations using live data from building sensors to optimise performance and sustainability.
It is important to realise that even upon project delivery, the assets still change over time as units and even whole systems are replaced, partition walls repositioned, extensions added and so on.